Monday, June 4, 2012

Little Man

My youngest child turns five today. This fact makes me sad...sort of. Time is moving way too fast! But I feel happy as well, and very blessed. Joel didn't come into our family in the traditional way. Two and a half years ago he became a Ward through the miracle of adoption.

Let's start at the beginning, shall we?  In late winter/early spring of 2007 I got the idea into my head that I wanted another child. I started checking out different adoption agencies and countries online. Every time I would go online for this search, I would always end up looking at this one agency's website. And looking at this one particular country...El Salvador. To this day I can't tell you why I was so attracted to that country. I decided to send away for some information.

About a week or two after I got my info, my friend Ashley came into the store where I worked and invited me on a mission trip her mom's brand new ministry was taking in July. "Where are they going?" I asked. Why...they were going to El Salvador! Now, I'm the kind of person who believes in signs. So right away I said, "OK! Sign me up!!"

In July of 2007 I made my first trip to the wonderful country of El Salvador. I fell head over heels in love with the country, the culture, and the people. Did I mention the food? They have this fabulous little dish called a pupusa. It's the only food I have ever dreamed about. A pupusa is a stuff tortilla and is sent from Heaven. You can get them stuffed with just about anything, but I'm a simple gal...I like just beans and cheese. I could write a whole blog about pupusas but this one is about I will now get back on track.

So I went to El Salvador, fell in love, left my heart there, and decided that, yes, this is where I will adopt my third child.  When I got home I made David love ES just as much as me with just my words.  That fall we sent in our application and started to wait. On Thanksgiving eve of 2007 we got a call from our adoption agent telling us that they had found a little boy for us..a baby no less. His name is Diego and he was 2 months old. If you are saying to yourself "Ummm...I thought the kid's name was Joel not Diego.", please be patient, all will be explained. We said "Yes, we'd love to welcome Diego into our family!" and started to gather documents for our dossier.

All that seems pretty simple right? WRONG! It wasn't just a few things we had to gather. It was many, many documents. Doctor's exams, IQ tests, personality tests, psych exams, three different kinds of background checks, financial statements, multiple personal references, fingerprints...just to name a few. And they had to be filled out perfectly! After that all documents had to be notarized, county certified, and state apostilled! Needless to say, gathering all of this took me months!

On Christmas eve 2007, I got an email from the ministry I went to El Salvador with. They had a missionary down there they had sent money to. He used the money to buy lots of orphanages Christmas.  Along with this email were tons of pictures. I was looking through the pics, smiling at all of the familiar faces, when all of the sudden I start to see pics of Diego's orphanage. I perk up...please God let there be pics of him on here!! And there were!! The only problem was, there were pics of two babies the same age. I didn't know which one he was. But it didn't matter I had pics!! So I printed them out and stuck them on the frig.

For the next six months I prayed over those two baby boys. I even prayed God would allow me to adopt them both. The summer of 2008 found me in El Salvador again. This time I would be able to go meet Diego! We drove out to San Martin, ES on a Wednesday morning. I was so nervous!! I walked through the gates and there he was!! There they both were. Those babies I had prayed for, for so long!! They handed me Diego and introduced me to the other baby, Joel. What an emotional day. I was there with Diego well into the afternoon. I was able to call home and let David and the kids talk to him. Life was good!

Diego and I
July 2008

July 2008

Soon it was time to go back to the states. I continued to pray for Diego and was happy to report to the family all I had learned about him and Joel. Since we had prayed for both of them for so long, we all had an interest in "the other baby" but Diego was going to be our son, so our main focus was on him.

A huge part of any adoption is waiting. We became very good at it. Calls from the agency were few and far between. One came on New Year's eve 2008. Have you noticed how all major things for us happened on a holiday eve? This call was devastating. Diego's father had come that fall and taken him out of the orphanage. Adopting Diego was no longer an option. Our lawyer in ES had decided to start adoption paperwork on Joel. She had been with me on one of my visits to see Diego and had seen how much I also loved Joel. That night I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. I felt like I had lost a child. I guess I had. I had my mom on one side and my dad on the other. They held me and just let me cry it out. I don't remember where David maybe.

So, we moved on and changed our focus. That little goofy baby I had met that summer was now OUR goofy little baby. But before we could call me ours officially we had to wait some more. That summer things started Two families we knew, that were also adopting from ES, went and got their kids, and we found out we had been approved as a family and that we had been matched with Joel. Adoptions from ES are notoriously difficult and we were glad to have those things behind us. We just needed our court date. So we waited some more, of course!

Time was dragging now.  We were all starting to get discouraged, but we soldiered on. In early October, David got Joel's room done. About a week later we got the call we had been waiting for. "Your court date is November 12th." YES! YES!! YES!!!  For the next three weeks our house was a whirlwind of activity. Getting all the little odds and ends sorted, buying things we hadn't yet, and packing. Then, all of the sudden, it was time. My mom and brother drove us to Nashville and we were on our way to see our little guy!

On Thursday November 12, 2009, Joel Humberto Rodriguez Alfaro become Joel Humberto Ward. We spent close to a month in the wonderful country of El Salvador. I loved playing tour guide. Showing my family all of the places I enjoyed.  If you are a friend of mine on facebook you can see all of the pics I took while we were there. Warning!! There are a lot of them!

Our First glimpse of Joel
November 9, 2009

David holding Joel for the first time

Mini vacation to the Pacific ocean

A complete family at last...and on our way home!!

On December 2, 2009, after a long plane ride, we touched down in Atlanta and Joel became a US citizen. We breathed a HUGE sigh of relief.  After two long years he was ours.

He doesn't know it, but he's an American now!

I look out the kitchen window and see him swimming with his father and sisters and my heart just swells with love and pride. I can't imagine my life without him. Being the mother of a little boy was not something I was prepared for but it is something I now know I could never live without.

He's FIVE!!!!